As the nights begin to draw shorter, our thoughts begin to turn to formalising our budget preparations for the coming financial year.  Once again, Local Government finances are set to be impacted by the continuation of austerity from the UK Government, which has seen public spending slashed and the drive for efficiencies accelerated over the course of the last decade.  Councils across the border are now beginning to crack under the growing strain, and I would once again urge the Government in Westminster to end this failed policy of austerity that has had an enormous effect on not only Local Authorities, but also on communities and individuals across the length and breadth of the UK.

Crucially, our preparation for future finances is continuous and does not stop between the spring and summer.  This means that we are as prepared as we can be for future budget pressures, allowing us to identify efficiency savings early, although once again we are anticipating a cut in funding for 2019/20 due to the ever increasing demands on social care and the need to provide equitable funding for our schools, leading to another challenging budget setting process.

Funding social care (both adult and children’s services) and education are two of the core priorities for this administration - as highlighted by the £2m uplift we provided to schools in 2018/19, which was double our original commitment.  I recognise that this still wasn’t enough for school budgets to break even due to increasing costs, and I appreciate the growing costs, but this was as much as we could allocate without seriously cutting other vital services that the Council provides.

For 2019/20, we will continue to deliver on this commitment to protect school budgets by increasing the funding by a further £1m at least, in addition to passing on the funding from the Government for the teachers pay award.  We realise that we can only be in a position to do this by optimising our efficiency in other areas of the Council and reducing costs, allowing us to allocate these savings to our core priority areas.

#RCTInvest has delivered significant improvements in our priority areas over the past few years, including major improvements to our indoor and outdoor leisure offer, upgrading children’s play facilities, creating a 21st century learning environment for our children, and the significant investment in infrastructure projects across the County Borough.  The investment has also allowed us to make huge improvements to our highways and transport network, with further plans set to come forward shortly that will see the largest ever sustained programme of road repairs and renewals in the history of RCT.  Despite having to endure these tough financial times, it is encouraging to see our hard work and preparation paying off in delivering on all of the commitments we made to residents in RCT last year.

Posted on 24/09/2018